The city of Dearborn continues to wrestle with its racist reputation nearly 40 years after its 15 term segregationist Mayor Orville Hubbard died. This struggle is personified in the city officials insistence on keeping a life-size bronze statue of Hubbard on display in public space.
Nearly 200 people gathered at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to hear from a panel of academics, journalists, and activists for a forum to discuss the Hubbard statue and the ways in which race shapes and continues to shape the region. The discussion began with the monument to Orville Hubbard now outside the Dearborn Historical Society but quickly turned to a discussion of the infrastructures of violence and inequality that persist and the need for points of disruption not only at an individual level but of the system of white supremacy.
What to do with Hubbard’s statue led to a deeper conversation on the infrastructure of racism and its persistence. Each of the panelists engaged with the ways in which the past is maintained in the present as it is represented in Hubbard, embodied in the way one teaches their child how to drive slowly through Dearborn just as their mother had 34-years prior, or losing access to the Dearborn Public Library in junior high because of the color of your skin.
As Lester Spence put it, “racism is a political process of hoarding resources.” It is not about the attitudinal interaction but power. The ability to provide good schools, public amenities like parks and library through tax revenue and the governing structures to prevent those outside from accessing it defined Hubbard’s legacy.
For the panelists, what Hubbard, and his 15 terms as mayor represented, were not the infrastructure of services he built within the city of Dearborn but the lengths to which he would go to prevent others from accessing those services.
The forum was conceived of and planned by students in the Intro to Urban and Regional Studies class at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Panelist were Lester Spence, Stephen Henderson, John Pat Leary, and Namira Islam.
For more on Hubbard check out David Good’s Orvie: The Dictator of Dearborn. It is out of print. The local library is your best bet.